Which number from Spirit AeroSystems’ big announcement Wednesday is the most impressive?
The 1,000 new jobs?
The $1 billion investment in its factory?
That the average yearly salary for the new jobs is $56,000?
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That one new job at Spirit historically creates three new jobs elsewhere in the community?
Whatever your preference, the size of Spirit’s continued investment in the city made for one of the brightest days in Wichita’s recent history. The number of well-paying, new manufacturing jobs, in addition to Spirit’s long-term investment in Wichita, are encouraging signs that the city continues to be where aviation wants to build.
Greater Wichita Partnership president Jeff Fluhr called it a mega project, and said there are few mega projects that happen across the country. His group called it the biggest employment announcement for Wichita since the 2009 economic downturn.
Spirit has been an important part of Wichita’s aviation sector since it was created in 2005 after Boeing Commercial Airplanes sold its Wichita division. It has 11,000 Wichita employees — 53 percent more than its inception — and has more than doubled the number of Boeing 737 fuselages it produces each month.
Spirit has continued to evolve and expand, increasing its defense aircraft work.
Wichita and Sedgwick County played roles in Spirit’s announcement, committing to a $14.5 million building — “hundreds of thousands of square feet,” Spirit CEO Tom Gentile said — at Spirit that the company will lease for 20 years.
What’s good for Spirit has traditionally been good for the city, too. New jobs and development mean more families and more money in the local economy, which helps Wichita’s other business sectors thrive. Mayor Jeff Longwell says one new aviation job has historically meant three other new jobs in the area.
It’s not all lollipops and rainbows. Spirit’s plan to add 1,000 jobs — 800 next year, 200 in 2019 — will need to include an aggressive strategy of recruiting skilled workers to the city and putting pressure on institutions providing technical training to provide more Wichita-bred workers.
It’s a formidable challenge, but a good one to tackle considering the benefits.
While the trend in Wichita is to not talk up our community’s aviation history — concentrating instead on attracting new technology and other innovation to locate here — it’s important to remember the part the aircraft industry continues to play in the area’s success.
The numbers announced Wednesday prove it.